2012 was a great year for comics

Posted: December 31, 2012 in DC, Editorial Not, Marvel, Rants
Tags: , , ,

By Alex Headley

Both Marvel and DC relaunched their brand in big ways in 2012. Mostly that involved heroes flying/running at you.

There is no denying that 2012 has been a big year for comics. The New 52 ( yes it started in 2011 but the meat of it was this year) hit its stride, giving DC its biggest numbers in years. Marvel NOW! Is just getting started but we’ve already seen an impact from it. November was a huge month for the comics. But more than finances, the last year has been good for creators. Marvel and DC seem, to me at least, to be far friendlier to writers and artists than in a long while. Marvel NOW! seems to be all about the creative side of things. Think of the way it was marketed: Mark Waid and Leniel Yu, Rick Remender and John Cassady, Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena. The creators are just as important to those books as the characters involved. It was the same with DC. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. All these guys got to leave their mark on some of the biggest names in comics.
It’s a model that seems to be working for both publishers and one that spins directly out of Image’s recent success with new iPs from specific creators like Hickman, Robert Kirkman and Brian K. Vaughn. The New 52 has thrived off of series that let the creators run wild. Look at Demon Knights, Animal Man, and Wonder Woman. Those books brought new ideas to those characters, taking the titles in new directions and exploring new sides of the core cast or where almost entirely new. Marvel NOW! is taking big risks too, bringing back the original X-Men, combining mutants and Avengers and taking Peter Parker out of the mask.
There finally seems to be a real effort on both companies’ part to expand the diversity of their line as well. Both companies offer more genres in their books as well as a more landscape in the titles that better reflect the diversity of the real world. DC has 9 ongoing titles starring female characters in the lead role. Marvel has only 4 but there are several ladies on each team book, Marvel’s hallmark. It’s a big leap forward. Minorities are better represented as well, even if some of the books that could have best reflected that change were canned for one reason or another (I’m looking at you Static Shock and Mr. Terrific) and some obviously deserving characters still don’t have their own series ( Cyborg!). The industry is still dominated mostly by white guys writing white guys but progress is being made, however slowly.

This is now the most popular superhero team in the world. Crazy, huh?
Property of Marvel Comics (Also Disney)

On top of the Marvel and DC comics, the publisher’s have done well in other media. DC continues to put out high quality animation in the form of DVDs and television series. Cartoon Network’s DC Nation, though its had a rough patch as of late, is a big deal. Likewise, Marvel has seen success with Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes( yeah it was cancelled but only so that Marvel could move forward with a Avengers toon of their own). That’s not to mention the two wildly successful films The Dark Knight Rises and Marvel’s The Avengers. The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time. Not bad for a team of formerly B-list heroes directed by a guy with more failed TV series than fingers. Sony released The Amazing Spider-Man and while it wasn’t as big as the other two, it did give us Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, so it was worth it. All three films were undisputed hits this year and 2013 only seems like it will continue the trend of comic book films dominating the box office. Man of Steel, Thor:The Dark World and Iron Man 3 all promise to be big hits. We can also look forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2 and a potential Justice League film in 2014. Joss Whedon is also working on a SHIELD live action series. Whedon back on TV working Marvel properties can only be a good thing. For DC, Arrow has been well-received and there seems to be a Wonder Woman series titled Amazon in the works.
Outside of the big two, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead has truly become a powerhouse property. The long running series has always receive critical praise and been a fan favorite series but AMC’s television adaptation has turned it into a blockbuster franchise. Telltale Game’s adaptation of the zombie epic recently won game of the year at Spike Video Game awards. And a FPS title is coming from Activision in 2013 starring the AMC original characters Darryl and Merle. The series is one of Image’s top selling titles right alongside Kirkman’s other project, Invincible both of which hit the landmark 100 issues in 2012.
I think that non-superhero stuff is the best it’s ever been in comics. The Walking Dead is part of that. As is the excellent Manhattan Projects, BKV’s Saga and the eminent return of Sandman.

One of the most popular comic book franchises. Not a superhero in sight.

In addition to the overall higher quality of work being put out at the moment, there are more ways than ever to get what we want. Digital distribution has been embraced by all the big names in the industry, meaning that we don’t even have to leave the house to get our fix. While I still prefer to get my comics from my local comic shop, the digital option is nice to have. Comixology offers weekly sales and that let’s readers pick up books they might otherwise ignore or miss. Trades are still a big part of the industry as well, giving readers a way to catch up or enjoy a series without having to wait a month to get our fix.

Despite all the good stuff going on, there are still issues. Most recently, the retirement of Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger is troubling for the line and maybe says some negative things about how that imprint has been treated since the New 52. Berger was responsible for bringing us pretty much every one of the awesome Vertigo series we have loves over the years, like Sandman. Gail Simone was recently fired in a very public way that sours some of my praise on DC’s diversity in their creative teams. On the Marvel side of things, its hard not to notice that comics are more expensive than ever. Marvel is the brunt of the problem here for me. Lots of books are bi-weekly now and even more have a $4 price point. Couple that with the reduction in page counts throughout the industry and you have an increasingly expensive hobby. At least the 3.99 DC books give you a second story to enjoy, sometimes putting the spotlight on interesting characters or new creators. Double shipping is a big problem. Another worrying trend is the return of variant covers. DC is releasing 52 for the first issue of JLA, one for each state, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Marvel isn’t better about it. They have been been absolutely in love with variants this year. Variants can be fun but upwards of $12 is a lot to ask for a picture of Deadpool dancing to Gangnam style on the cover of Avengers 1. Its just overkill. On the bright side all those baby variants are giving Skottie Young a lot of work.

  1. raheadley says:

    Very well written and some great points! It has been a good year for the industry and for the fans. I look forward to seeing what next year brings!


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